Tuesday, October 10, 2006

They Told Me To Stall

Some of you know that I play banjo in a bluegrass band. Some of you could care less. Some of you even know that I yo-yo. Some of you might even know that our band features a yo-yo segment. Some of you didn't know that, but now you do...

The job was your ordinary, run of the mill, evening gig that was an opening event to a fall festival for the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. Brasstown's a tiny place, so this festival is huge doin's for everyone. We were booked for their concert series, and it's just a great place to play the type of music we play. The crowds are generally very interested in Bluegrass and Old-Time music - many are musicians. All in all, it's probably one of the best places we play.

Our guitar player and I rode together and we arrived on time. We set up what little gear we had, and tuned up. My phone rings and it's the other half of the band - the bass player and the mandolin player. They're late... and they suggest we stall. I told them to step on it and make up the time. Of course that's no small feat going thru the gorge on Hwy 64 by the Ocoee River... curvy, and a lot of tourists. I realized that when I suggested that they should hasten, but I wasn't particularly optimistic.

Stall... it's really hard to stall with an auditorium full of people that are waiting for their entertainment.


I begin some small talk with the front row and begin to yo-yo a bit. Only reason I'm chatting with the front row is we don't have sound yet. They're amused. I chat. I yo-yo. I smile A LOT.

As I yo-yo I watch the wave of attention slowly spread through the auditorium. It begins with an elbow... a "hey look"... and it just spreads. I finish some simple trick without knocking out an eye and there's a smattering of applause. Okay... this stall may work.

I talk some more, now I've picked up my volume a bit with my "school teacher voice" and continue. No super complicated stuff. These are just things I can do in my sleep. By now the mic is set up and I can talk to the whole auditorium.

What now...

I fall back on the basics. I walked the dog... jumped it through the hoop... and finished with a dogbite. I thought I'd go deaf from the applause. They like this stuff?

Well... if they like that I thought. I introduce the Man on the Trapeze... his brother... their sister... and finish up with the Mother-In-Law bouncing off the floor. More applause, but this time with laughter... amazing.

Rock the baby.... Eiffel Tower... yup... you guessed it - Rock the Baby on the Eiffel Tower. Chuckles and Applause from the crowd.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the rest of the band had arrived and was ready to come on. I finished up with some simple 2 handed stuff. Applause again...

About that time the EmmCee begins introducing the band and they join me on stage. 30 seconds later I've ditched the yo-yos, strapped on a banjo and I kick off the first song of the night...

Is there a lesson to be learned here, or perhaps a moral to this story?

I have no clue... but I do know that it doesn't take fancy tricks to entertain folks. What it took for me, was honest chatter with the audience and good old fashion stuff they could recognize.

So, the next time you're out there waiting for your bandmates to show up, and you're told to stall. Grab a yo-yo and just talk to the crowd. The rest will take care of itself.

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